January 14, 2004 1:19 PM PST

PlayStation 2 passes sales milestone

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Electronics giant Sony announced on Wednesday that worldwide sales of its PlayStation 2 game console have surpassed 70 million, despite a year-to-year drop in holiday sales.

The company sold 7.83 million PS2 units worldwide in November and December, according to a Sony statement, below the 8.5 million sold during the same period last year. The drop was most pronounced in North America, where holiday sales totaled 3 million, down from 4 million a year ago.

The results still put the company ahead of estimates from analysts, who have predicted a dramatic sales decline for the PS2 and other game consoles as consumers wait for new models to enter the market. Analysts at WR Hambrecht, UBS Warburg and others increased their ratings on a number of game-related stocks Wednesday, based on presumptions of better-than-expected holiday sales reports.

The 70 million total further widens the PS2's lead over its rivals, Nintendo's GameCube and Microsoft's Xbox, which both are edging past the 10 million mark.

Nevertheless, Nintendo reported strong holiday sales for the GameCube, which it recently offered a discount on. The company plans to reveal specific sales figures when it reports earnings at the end of the month. But a company spokesman told the Reuters news agency that sales for the holiday season were up 70 percent from a year ago and that the company is on track to meet internal targets. These call for sales of 6 million GameCubes during the current fiscal year, which ends March 31.

Microsoft is expected to disclose holiday sales figures for its Xbox game console, but Chief Xbox Officer Robbie Bach said last week that seasonal sales were on target.

Sony and Microsoft have emerged as the main forces in a far-reaching battle to expand the role of game consoles from high-tech toys to digital media hubs.

 

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